Manchester Orchestra’s Moody Magic Hit Us Right in the Feels at Observatory North Park

Manchester Orchestra
Observatory North Park

It can be rare to find a band who sounds just as good — or even better — than their recorded albums. Manchester Orchestra broke the mold last night in San Diego with a riveting 15-song set that rivaled its five studio releases.

The quartet brought a sound that was relaxing, yet invigorating. Their music is a kind you don’t mind closing your eyes to, just soaking in the sounds. However, their live shows bring the aesthetics as well, making you want to pay attention to every detail.

Beginning with “The Maze,” the Atlanta-based band’s hour-and-a-half set at the Observatory in North Park, which supported the group’s July effort A Black Mile to the Surface, included a light show that exemplified hues of blue, pink, purple and green.

And as the lights danced on stage, so did the members, with bassist Andy Prince showing a particularly strong amount of energy as he continually raised his instrument into the air and moved about the floor.

Singer/guitarist Andy Hull’s voice is unparalleled in the emo genre, with intelligent lyrics that tell the stories of heartbreak, loss, acceptance, growth and happiness.

Unlike most shows from similar bands, fans did not push and shove their ways closer to the stage, though songs like “Shake It Out” and “I’ve Got Friends” could have encouraged them to do so. Instead, they listened intently and quietly sang along, their voices amplifying at lyrics like, “Take me to the river and make me clean again” from their song “The River.”

The band also did very little talking, though Hall did pause for a brief moment to hug his brother-in-law and guitarist Robert McDowell just before playing “Simple Math.” (The pair also scored the film “Swiss Army Man” together.)

It would have been fitting for Manchester Orchestra to end with “The River,” which chants, “I’m gonna leave you the first chance I get.” However, the group came back out to perform an encore of “I Can Feel a Hot One” and “The Silence.”

Manchester Orchestra will bring their “A Black Mile to the Surface,” with support from Foxing and Tiger’s Jaw, to The Novo in Los Angeles on Sept. 14 and The Observatory in Santa Ana on Sept. 15.

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